Glacier Park Boat Tours: An Expert’s Advice and Helpful Tips

Front of a boat on lake in mountains of Glacier

You’re planning your big trip to Glacier National Park and you’ve heard about the historic boat tours available in the park. They all offer a uniquely beautiful perspective, which means it can be overwhelming to select a boat tour (or tours) to add to your itinerary.

Luckily, as a seasonal park employee and former boat captain, I am here to help!

Glacier Park Boat Company is the only company authorized to offer boat tours in Glacier. Boat tour options include tours on St. Mary Lake at Rising Sun, Lake McDonald, Two Medicine Lake; and Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes in Many Glacier. The cost ranges from approximately $25 to $40 for adults and $13 to $20 for children. Some of these even include guided hikes! These tours operate seasonally, from June-September. All of the tours are amazing, so it is impossible to make the wrong choice.

Each of these boat tour options is different, so keep reading for more details! In this article I’ll cover:

  • Lake McDonald Boat Tour
  • St. Mary Lake Boat Tour
  • Two Medicine Lake Boat Tour
  • Many Glacier Boat Tour
Glacier's Scenic Boat Rides: What you need to know

About the Boat Tours

Glacier Park Boat Company sign

Glacier Park Boat Company is a family-owned business that has been operating in Glacier National Park since 1938. The tour boats were all built between the years 1927 and 1970, and each one has a unique character and charm.

All boat tours include informative commentary from a Boat Company guide, and you can expect to be entertained as you learn about history, geology, glaciers, plants, and animals. Each location varies slightly in the tours that they offer and the experience you will have, so continue reading to learn more about what each location has in store for you.

Map showing how to get to Glacier Park Boat Tours
Tour LocationTour TimesTime RequiredOptional Guided Hike?PriceReservation Needed?
Lake McDonald11:00, 1:30, 3:00,
5:30, 7:00
1 hourNo~$26.30 adult
~$13.15 child
St. Mary9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00,
2:00, 3:00, 4:00,
5:00, 6:00
1-1.5 hours*No~$26.30-39.45
~$13.15-19.70 child
Two Medicine8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 1:00, 3:00,
45 minutes-3 hours*Some tours*~$19.70 adult
~$9.85 child
Many Glacier8:30, 9:00, 11:00,
1:00, 2:00, 3:30,
1.5-4 hours*No~$39.45 adult
~$19.70 child
*See individual tables below for more detailed information

Lake McDonald Boat Tour (West Side of the Park)

Woman buying tickets for boat tour

The boat tour on Lake McDonald leaves from the boat dock below Lake McDonald Lodge. This is located 10 miles from the West Entrance of Glacier.

The Lake McDonald boat tour is a one-hour cruise that includes informative and entertaining commentary by your boat captain along with the stunning views.

The boat tours at Lake McDonald depart at 11:00am, 1:30pm, 3:00pm, 5:30pm, and 7:00pm.

Tour TimeTime RequiredOptional Guided Hike?Price
11:00, 1:30, 3:00, 5:30, 7:001 hourNo~$26.30 adult ~$13.15 child
            Lake McDonald tour options. Prices are approximate and subject to change

This is my least favorite option as I find it to be the least scenic of the tours. However, if you are not traveling to the East side of the park or you are not interested in hiking, this is still a lovely way to spend an hour.

To book a tour, call (406) 257-2426 or visit It is highly recommended that you reserve your tour well in advance, but not required.

St. Mary Lake Boat Tour (East Side of the Park)

Boat at dock on lake in Glacier

The boat tour on St. Mary Lake leaves from Rising Sun, a stop along the Going-to-the-Sun Road that is 6 miles west of the St. Mary entrance gate.

The St. Mary Lake boat tour offers scenic rides, most of which give you the opportunity to leave the boat and take a 15-minute hike to beautiful Baring Falls and then return to the dock.

I cannot recommend this boat tour highly enough! The scenery simply cannot be beaten, and the experience of being on a wooden tour boat built in 1927 as it cruises through waves is quite unforgettable.

View of lake and mountains through windows on boat

The boat tours on St. Mary Lake depart at 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, and 6:00 pm from June 5th to September 2nd. From June 24th to August 20th they offer additional departing times of 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, and 5:00 pm. Each of these rides will take 1.5 hours round trip.

The 6:00pm boat tour is only one hour and does not give you time to leave the boat and hike to Baring Falls.

Tour TimeTime RequiredOptional Guided Hike?Price
9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:001.5 hoursNo~$39.45 adult, ~$19.70 child
6:001 hourNo~$26.30 adult, ~$13.15 child
St. Mary tour options. Prices are approximate and subject to change

To book a tour, call (406) 257-2426 or visit It is best to do this in advance, but not required as this is one of the least busy of all the boat tour locations.

  • Are you overwhelmed by what to see and do while visiting Glacier National Park? We’ve created a step-by-step travel guide to help you see the best of Glacier in an efficient manner. Check it out here!

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Two Medicine Boat Tour (East Side of the Park)

People listening tour guide on boat tour

The boat tours on Two Medicine Lake depart at 8:00am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm, and 5:00pm. Each tour requires 45 minutes round-trip.

At 1:00 and 3:00, beginning July 1st, there is an optional, free guided hike to Twin Falls with a Boat Company naturalist. This is a family-friendly 2-mile round-trip hike with no elevation gain, and you’ll get to see an amazing waterfall. The total time required for the boat ride and hike is three hours.

Tour TimeTime RequiredOptional Guided Hike?Price
8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 5:0045 minutesNo$19.70 adult $9.85 child
1:00, 3:003 hoursYes-beginning July 1st$19.70 adult $9.85 child
Two Medicine tour options. Prices are approximate and subject to change

If you are interested in hiking but would like to cut down on the number of miles required, you can use the boat ride to shorten your hike. This will save you about 5 miles! When you leave the boat initially, your boat captain will hand you a return-trip ticket that you can use to come back later in the day.

To book a tour, call (406) 257-2426 or visit It is best to do this in advance, but not required as this is one of the least busy of all the boat tour locations.

Many Glacier Boat Tour (East Side of the Park)

Woman getting into boat with tour guide with mountains and lake behind

The boat tour in Many Glacier is unique because it takes you across two different lakes on two different boats. This two-boat, two-lake tour gives you views of the most spectacular valley in the park (in my opinion) with only a short (but steep), ¼ mile hike necessary between the two lakes.

Many Glacier is my FAVORITE boat tour option! The wildlife viewing opportunities are unparalleled, as the tours often see bears and moose from the boat.

The Many Glacier boat tours depart at 8:30 am*, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm*, 2:00 pm, 3:30 pm*, and 5:00 pm. The total tour time required is 1.5 hours. Tours marked with an *asterisk* do not begin operating until July 1st. Those on the 8:30 am boat must disembark from the boat. The next boat doesn’t return until 11:45 am so you will have to wait until then or you could spend that time hiking.

View of mountains and lake with boat at dock
Tour TimeTime RequiredOptional Guided Hike?Price
8:301.5 hours on boat + waiting until 11:45 for next boat departureNo$39.45 adult $19.70 child
9:00, 11:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:301.5 hours + hiking time if you chooseNo$39.45 adult $19.70 child
Many Glacier tour options. Prices are approximate and subject to change

Just like in Two Medicine, if you are interested in hiking but would like to cut down on the number of miles required, you can use the boat ride to shorten your hike. This will save you about 5 miles! When you leave the boat initially, your boat captain will hand you a return-trip ticket that you can use to come back later in the day.

People getting off boat at dock on lake with view of mountains behind

To book a tour, call (406) 257-2426 or visit This is the most popular boat tour location, so I highly recommend booking your tour well in advance, especially if you are traveling in a large group!

Other Boating Options

canoes on shore of lake with mountains behind

If you would like to get out on the water but are not interested in a boat tour, Glacier Park Boat Company also offers small watercraft rentals at many of their locations! All rentals are approximately $20/hour, though the price varies slightly by the type of watercraft.

  • Lake McDonald: Paddleboards and Motorboats
  • Two Medicine: Single Kayaks, Double Kayaks, Motorboats, Rowboats, Canoes
  • Many Glacier: Single Kayaks, Double Kayaks, Rowboats, Canoes
  • Apgar: Motorboats, Single Kayaks, Double Kayaks, Canoes, Rowboats, Paddleboards

If you’re interested in swimming, learn about the best places to swim in Glacier.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I wear for a boat tour?

The most important thing to remember on the boats and anywhere in Glacier is that the weather in the mountains can change quickly. Always be sure to pack warm layers and rain protection, because you never know when you will need it! Be sure to wear sturdy shoes if you plan to hike from your boat ride.

People seated on inside of boat

What should I bring with me on the boat?

I recommend bringing water, snacks, a camera (or your phone), and enough clothing to be comfortable in the breezy mountain air. If you plan to hike, it is ESSENTIAL to bring enough food and water, and bear spray is always recommended.

How far in advance should I reserve tickets for my tour?

As soon as possible! Boat tours can sell out months in advance, so reserve your trip as soon as you decide it is something you want to do. Walk-up tickets are occasionally available but never guaranteed.

People waiting in line on shore of lake to get on boat

How early should I arrive?

Plan to arrive at least 45 minutes- 1 hour before your tour. This gives you time to find parking, use the restroom, locate the boat dock, and pick up your tickets. Boarding begins 15 minutes prior to the listed departure time, and your tickets will be forfeited and sold to someone else if you are not on board 10 minutes prior to departure.

Do I need to worry about motion sickness?

No! The boats are very stable even in choppy conditions.

Are tours ever canceled because of the weather?

It is possible but extremely rare. The boats are sturdy, and the captains are prepared for anything! I worked as a captain in Many Glacier for nine summers and I never saw a tour canceled for weather.

Do I need bear spray on the boat?

No! If you are just planning to take the boat ride there is absolutely no reason you should bring bear spray with you. However, if you are planning to hike from the boat it is always a good idea to hike with bear spray in Glacier.

You are allowed to carry bear spray with you on the boat, but PLEASE TAKE CARE NOT TO ACCIDENTALLY DISCHARGE YOUR BEAR SPRAY.

It happens about once per year, and it happened to Matt & Cheryl on their recent boat ride in Many Glacier. It is NOT a pleasant experience.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

I created a step-by-step itinerary that incorporates the BEST boat tours and fits them into your schedule.

Glacier National Park is BIG and CROWDED. It’s overwhelming to plan a trip to Glacier, especially if you haven’t been there.

Luckily, I’ve worked there for years and I know the secrets and the best ways to structure your days to get the most out of your vacation.

Your vacation can be frustrating and full of missed opportunities, or you can have a GREAT TRIP, by buying our Glacier National Park Itinerary!


GLACIER TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Glacier National Park, check out our Glacier Homepage

THINGS TO DO: Check out what not to miss and other things to do in Glacier including, hiking, and the amazing boat tours. Find out how to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road with our free printable

WHERE TO EAT: Don’t miss the best places to eat in Glacier National Park

WHERE TO STAY: Learn all about where to stay when visiting Glacier

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out which entrance is best for Glacier National Park as well as what to do when the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed and if you need bear spray while visiting or if swimming is allowed

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Glacier National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Glacier YouTube Playlist


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